A "Legendary" Tip of the Cap

With the Tigers pulling away in the AL Central the past couple weeks, the mighty troll army has seemingly been silenced (for now). Jim Leyland is no longer a clueless moron. He is suddenly a master strategist who manages his players like some gifted puppet master. Dave Dombrowski is no longer the “Dumbrowski” of old…oh no. He is now GM of the Year with his acquisitions of Wilson Betemit, Doug Fister, and Delmon Young.

Jeff Jones is being seen as an improvement suddenly over former “scapegoat” Rick Knapp while coaching the pitchers. Even Gene Lamont hasn’t had as many people wishing he’d get hit by a bus lately for his senior moments coaching third. And Tom Brookens…no one hates Tom Brookens. 1984 will do that for a guy.

It’s amazing what a winning streak will do to shut up the critics.

But there’s still one guy that I haven’t seen get any love from anyone, except the eternally optimistic Rod Allen (who could probably find a way to compliment Hitler if he tried). The man has received nothing but scorn from a large segment of Tiger fans over the past few years and it’s high time someone said something nice about him.

I’m your guy. I see you, Lloyd McClendon.

“Legendary” Lloyd, as Rod calls him, is like most hitting coaches. When the team struggles, HE must be the problem. I mean why else would Brandon Inge be swinging at those pitches a foot off the plate? Lloyd must have told him to do it! But when the team hits the ball, no one notices the hitting coach. I find this fascinating.

It’s true, by the time a guy reaches the major league level, he probably knows how to hit a bit. But everyone has slumps, and I think it’s a hitting coach’s job to be there to identify problems with a guy’s swing and help him get back on track. It’s his job to be there when a player needs help. And though no one’s ever going to make Inge or Don Kelly look like Ty Cobb at the plate, I think Lloyd deserved some credit for the team’s success this year.

Now while I doubt hitting machines like Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez spend too much time picking McClendon’s brain about what to do with their swing, I think you have to assume that Lloyd has had a hand in the amazing years of Jhonny Peralta and Alex Avila. In fact, I’ve heard Peralta quoted as saying as much. Take a look at the differences.

2010 Peralta: .249/.311/.392, 15 HR, 81 RBI
2011 Peralta: .306/.355/.487, 19 HR, 89 RBI (and counting)

2010 Avila: .228/.316/.340, 7 HR, 31 RBI
2011 Avila: .300/.391/.519, 18 HR, 75 RBI (and counting)

Those are just two examples. You know Lloyd has to be in Raburn’s ear during his 2nd half rising phoenix act. Austin Jackson, Andy Dirks and others have probably had Lloyd working hand-in-hand with them, too.

My point is, if you’re going to kick the guy when the team’s down, shake his hand when they’re playing well. And I can’t remember any time in recent memory when I’ve seen the Tigers playing this well.

Thanks, Lloyd. Keep up the good work helping to make this season “legendary".